There's a special type of awe and wonder that surfaces within humans when we really take note of outer space — and what better way to feel utterly insignificant (in a good way!) than to watch the Eta Aquarid meteor shower? If you're wondering where you can see the Eta Aquarids in 2017, the answer is, thankfully, pretty much anywhere. Unlike many other major sky events, this sprinkling of meteors will be visible from anywhere in the world, so it's something you can tell your family and friends across the globe to enjoy, too.
The movements of the planets and the stars and how they correlated with events on Earth have been observed by humans for thousands of years. Astronomy Trek notes that by 5000 BCE, early sun observatories in the Neolithic Era were used to analyze the heavens; then, by 3000 BCE, the ancient Egyptians were splitting their time into what we now know as a year, with a calendar of 365 days and 12 months, based on the activity of the Earth and the sky. Incredibly, there's also some evidence that suggests Aboriginal people in Australia were keeping track of the stars even earlier; several stone creations thought to be related to the stars were discovered in 2011 and are estimated to pre-date Stonehenge, which is 5,000 years old.
What's great about the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is that it's going to produce a lot of what we often call "shooting stars," which are basically comet particles coming into contact with the Earth's atmosphere and leaving a bright streak in the night sky as they burn away. So, get your binoculars at the ready, folks. However, it's worth noting that although the shower is active between April 19 and May 28 each year, in 2017, it will peak around May 5 and May 6. The best day to get sky-gazing for those impressive shooting stars is May 5.
It's actually quite unusual for a meteor shower to be visible from multiple locations in the world — and for what it's worth, visibility for the Eta Aquarids won't be exactly the same everywhere. Although the Eta Aquarids can be viewed in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres during the pre-dawn hours, visibility will still vary greatly depending on your precise location. Space.com writer and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium Joe Rao explains, all meteor showers in the night sky have an origin point, known as its "radiant." For the Eta Aquarids, the radiant is found in the constellation Aquarius, which begins to rise above the eastern horizon around 3 a.m local time. However, from the Northern hemisphere, this constellation never really gets very high in sky; Rao also notes that the further South in the Southern hemisphere you are, the more impressive your viewing will be (Australians have it very lucky for this shower, for example). On the other hand, 2017's first meteor shower, the Quadrantids (which peaked on Jan. 3 and 4), had such a high radiant point, those of us in the Northern hemisphere had a better view.
Time And Date notes that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is created by debris from Halley's Comet; indeed, it's one of two meteor showers it produces — the other one, the Orionid meteor shower, is taking place in a few months. Writes Time and Date, "The Earth passes through Halley's path around the Sun a second time in October. This creates the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks around October 20."
Time And Date also have a handy tool which you can adjust depending on your location and which tells you the best time to get watching the sky. However, don't forget that it may take some time for your eyes to adjust, thereby enabling you to spot the blazing comets. You should also be prepared to start looking only when the weather is clear; additionally, you may want to try and get out of large towns and cities to avoid light pollution affecting your view of the sky. If that sounds easy enough to arrange, don't forget that you just need one more thing: Patience in abundance. "Prepare to wait," Time and Date advises. "Bring something to sit or lie down on. Star gazing is a waiting game, so get comfortable."